Canadian C-spine Rule. And HOW does this relate to Cervicogenic Dizziness?

The Canadian C-spine Rule is one of the most useful, reliable and valid differential decision making tools in our arsenal. As a very sensitive tool, it is a phenomenal screen for clinicians to rule out a cervical fracture. This is especially important prior to what rehabilitation clinicians do for a living—apply some type of local cervical treatment as it would obviously be an absolute contraindication to treatment.

Even if a PT is unable to fully cite the decision rule, most, if not all are aware of it and its purpose following a low or high trauma. How many of you would treat your MVA and/or concussion patient without having at least plain films performed by a physician? But there is one element that gets overlooked— and that is the ORDER of the various criteria that guide decision making.

As you can see from Figure 1 below, the clinician should NOT ask the patient to actively rotate the neck PRIOR to ruling out high risk factors and THENlow risk factors. There is a top-down approach, which makes the rule THE rule.

Harrison N. Vaughan – Canadian C-spine rule – Cervicogenic Dizziness

Makes sense right?…So then, shouldn’t we think of an optimal sequence, or order, prior to intervening to the cervical spine. This is especially important when you’re talking about a diagnosis of exclusion, one of controversy, one that may not be on a vestibular therapist or physician’s radar—and that is Cervicogenic Dizziness.

But while we talk about ruling out fracture, which is quite easily performed with plain film imaging (and additionally a CT Scan if you get into the emergency literature…); we have to clinically address other major contraindications to intervention—including central disorders, peripheral disorders, vertebral-basilar insufficiency (VBI) and even instability due to ligamentous tears.

These contraindications are MUCH more challenging, more gray but highly important as we are talking about dizziness here!—we don’t have the data points of highly sensitive or specific measures to rule out these conditions but at the same time, we have a very powerful tool to get these patients better, and better quickly. It is certainly a dilemma.

Cervicogenic Dizziness. Harrison Vaughan. All Rights Reserved.

Become more confident at addressing the upper cervical spine. Do your concussion, MVA and BPPV patients a favor. Learn my Optimal Sequence Algorithm for Cervicogenic Dizziness. It takes you through the clinical reasoning, the clinical tests and just as important, the ORDER, of addressing a patient concerned of having dizziness from cervical origin. This is the Canadian C-spine Rule on steroids. Then you can pound out results with the Physio Blend. ALL in a weekend—ALL taught by husband-wife combo who are specialists in manual therapy AND vestibular therapy—BOTH neuro and manual combined—ALL in ONE.

Cervical Vertigo, Cervicogenic Dizziness Courses, Vestibular, Cervical
Cervicogenic Dizziness

You can learn more about the screening and treatment process of Cervicogenic Dizzinesss through Integrative Clinical Concepts, where the author and his wife, a Vestibular Specialist, teach a 2-day course.  Pertinent to this blog post, the first day provides the most up-to-date evidence review from multiple disciplines to diagnose through the “Optimal Sequence Algorithm” to assist in ruling out disorders and ruling in cervical spine, including determining if single or double entity exists.  

If you would like to host a course for your staff (either a vestibular, neuro, sports or ortho clinic), please do not hesitate to contact me at for prices and discounts.

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Harrison N. Vaughan, PT, DPT, OCS, Dip. Osteopracic, FAAOMPT    

Instructor: Cervicogenic Dizziness for Integrative Clinical Concepts

Danielle N. Vaughan, PT, DPT, Vestibular Specialist  

Instructor: Cervicogenic Dizziness for Integrative Clinical Concepts

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